Small businesses are becoming more visible these days as consumers actively search for them online. There are more opportunities than ever for small businesses to impact the local community and make a positive change in the economy. However, in order to take advantage of these opportunities, small businesses will need to step up their marketing game. Competition, especially in the digital marketing space, is now fiercer than ever.
While most businesses know they can benefit from an SEO company’s services, their marketing budgets may not be big enough to enable them to purchase an all-inclusive package with all the bells and whistles. Instead of giving up, these companies should do some groundwork to ensure they get the most out of their existing SEO campaigns.
Research your competitors
Small business owners often don’t have a very clear idea of who their direct competitors are. They also tend to be unfamiliar with the wants and needs of their target audience, and clueless as to what’s “trending” in their industries. In addition, business owners often develop tunnel vision and a single-minded focus on sales. This can be fatal in the online space.
Here are some questions business owners must find the answers to:
- What are your competitors doing to get more sales? Are they using direct mailers, SEO, radio or TV ads, cold calling or door to door sales?
- Where are your own customers coming from? Are they garnered through the web, phone calls or walk-ins?
- How do your pricing, services, products and so on compare with those of your competitors?
Obtaining the answers to the above questions can reveal the best strategic marketing tactics to use.
Define your goal
Business owners need to have more specific goals than to simply “make more money”. An actionable goal needs to be well-thought out, strategic and thoroughly defined.
Here are some questions business owners should ask themselves when trying to formulate their goals.
- Which of your services make the most money? How can the business draw more customers to these revenue-generating products and services?
- Could the business benefit from repeat customers or is it focused on one-time clientele?
- With which areas are customers unsatisfied? What can be done to improve their experience?
- Conversely, which areas see the highest levels of customer satisfaction, and what feedback has been provided by customers that justify continued positive performance?
- Are certain geographic regions worth targeting, or is the business trying to become a national name?
Knowing the answers to the above questions will enable you to better direct your SEO company to stay focused. Let them know if you are hoping to increase sales, email subscriptions and so on, and not traffic or rankings, as these can impact their activities greatly. Clearly mark the goal line and tell them what success is in your definition. Good SEO companies would appreciate this as an opportunity to create a strategy that’s more suited to your needs and budgets, and to show you the results you want to see.
Interview your SEO company
Never forget that the expert in your business is you, not the SEO company. The SEO company is hired to supplement your marketing strategy and increase your search visibility, but at the end of the day you are the one with the best knowledge of your own business and industry. Don’t be afraid to ask pertinent questions to ensure the SEO company is right for you.
- Ask for references. Check out the SEO company’s client profile to determine if there are any companies or brands similar to yours. Ask about their success rate and request testimonials if possible.
- Ask about their plan. While it’s tempting to just leave the SEO company to their own devices, it’s best to ask questions about areas you don’t fully understand. Be aware that at the start, the company is likely to emphasise that you should get your on-page factors right. Your website needs to be optimised at the same time as they try to assist you with your web presence. Conversely, if the SEO company immediately starts talking about buying links and meta keywords, move on.
- Ask them about their backlink building. Any sensible company should be looking for white hat SEO, meaning SEO using organic and natural techniques. Such a strategy is long-term and can take a while, but is worth far more than quick-fix SEO achieved through underhand techniques. Be prepared to invest your time and energy, and make sure you know where the SEO company will be building the links. Steer clear of companies that promise to achieve fast results, at they could be using unscrupulous black hat techniques.
- Ask about their experience in your industry. What strategies can they employ to help you get ahead in your particular industry?
Small businesses face a particularly competitive landscape these days, and must be diligent in order to remain ahead of their rivals. While it is important to know why external marketing strategies like SEO are important, it is just as crucial to identify what your own business needs most, so you can allocate your limited time and resources to techniques that produce lasting results.
Mae Demdam is a Digital Analyst with seoWorks, a SEO Company based in Sydney. She has worked with a variety of small businesses and brands and is passionate about digital marketing. In her spare time you can find her running, surfing and doing yoga and Pilates as well as refreshing her mind learning something new or reading a good book.